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Monday, 14 September 2015

From Today's Papers - 14 Sep 2015

Troop cut part of Chinese military reforms
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 13
China’s much publicised announcement to prune 3 lakh troops from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will not give India a military edge over its neighbour.

An assessment made by the Indian security establishment indicates that China is linking the troop cut to military reforms. The focus will be to prune “non-essential” force, including office staff, while ramping up its air force, navy and strategic missiles.

On September 3, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a reduction of 3 lakh troops. This is not the first troop cut by China. Beijing has done this periodically as it grows in terms of technology, officials say. The cuts are part of the military reforms scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017. It will be China’s 11th military reduction since 1949 and the fourth since the 1980s. In 1985, China cut the armed forces by more than 10 lakh, the largest cut ever. Troop numbers were reduced by 5 lakh in 1997 and by 2 lakh in 2003.

The cut announced by Xi indicate that the PLA is paying more attention to its operational capability. It is most likely to focus on helicopter and mechanised operations in the Tibetan plateau and Xinjiang—both bordering India. China’s military budget—$142 billion—could be invested in upgrading weapons and increasing attack prowess of combat units. India has a budget of $38.5 billion and that too at dollar exchange rates of last year.

For New Delhi, a red herring is that China and Russia have agreed to co-produce a heavy-lift helicopter. The Aviation Industry Corp of China and the Russian Helicopters signed a cooperation frame work in May this year. The copter will be capable of flying at altitudes up to 5,700 m. In simple words, it will be capable of flying all over Tibet and crossing the formidable Himalayas. With a capacity of carrying 10 tonne cargo or more than 100 persons, the copter is expected to from the airborne rapid deployment of future PLA. China has said it will need at least 200 such copters. In comparison, India is in the process of ordering 15 heavy-lift copters (CH-47 Chinook) from the US and has 137 medium-lift Mi-17 series helicopters.

Indian estimates are that the PLA could integrate the command headquarters of the three services into a unified joint command. In China, its military website today hinted at the expansion of its air force. It quoted Shen Jinke, spokesperson of the PLA air force, saying that “air force’s strategic capabilities should go with expanding national interests, in a bid to conduct diverse military missions”.
India to hold ground in Ladakh
Union Home Minister cancels scheduled visit to the Line of Actual Control
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 13
India and China today continued to maintain their respective troops at the flashpoint at Burtse in Northern Ladakh even as a flag meeting of local commanders of the armies of both sides is expected tomorrow.

The Indian troops have been asked to stay put and are to be there till status quo ante is restored and agreed upon at the flag meeting.

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh cancelled his scheduled visit to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh that was to commence on September 15.

The situation has not escalated since last night. Yesterday, both sides showed banners to each other, asking the other side to withdraw. Unfurling banners is part of the 2005 protocol on border management to prevent gun-toting troops from reacting in the heat-of-the-moment. India had ramped up its military presence on seeing a Chinese build-up on the other side.

Top sources told The Tribune that troop reinforcements had been stationed by either side over the past two-three days. The Indian side is at disadvantage as its nearest base is at a distance from the spot of the flashpoint

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has its base close by and has a kind of “kutcha” mountain track approaching the spot from its side. The PLA had built a watchtower–a kind of fully serviced solar-powered hut at an altitude of 17,000 feet.

The Chinese construction was bang on the “border patrolling line”. The Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) protested. The hut also had a camera that recorded the movement of Indian troops.

The Indian side asked the PLA for a flag meeting on seeing the watchtower. There was no response for almost 48 hours. The Indian troops were sent to remove the hut. The camera and other material found there would be handed over to the Chinese side at the flag meeting scheduled for tomorrow, sources said. The meeting was to be held today, but was postponed for tomorrow.

The “border patrolling line” is a way to address areas where even the alignment of un-demarcated LAC is disputed. The LAC alignment is roughly accepted by both sides in Lakakh, but some pockets remain where the “border patrolling line” is the accepted principle.

This is an informal un-demarcated line and troops on either side patrol the areas that they perceive as their own. The border patrolling line is the farthest point to which military patrols come from the Chinese side.

The Burtse area, being adjacent to Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), forms part of huge Depsang plains perceived by India as its own territory. However, China claims it to be its territory as it gives it a tactical edge over the area, including the airfield that was made operational by the Indian Air Force (IAF) a few years ago.

The area was in news in April 2013 when a 21-day stand-off between troops of either side ended after four flag meetings between the two sides.
If provoked, India will hit back, says Rajnath
‘Ready for talks with Pak on PoK, but not on Kashmir’
Bhopal, September 13
In a strong warning to those disrupting border peace, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said the country will not hesitate in retaliating if someone fires first and asserted the government is ready to talk to Pakistan over PoK, and not Kashmir.

“India always wants good friendly relations with its neighbours and continues with its policy of not disturbing anyone. But if someone fires at us first, we will not count the retaliatory bullets. ‘Chhedenge nahi, par chhodenge bhi nahi’ (will not disturb anyone, but if disturbed, then won't spare anyone)," Singh said. He was addressing an inaugural programme of the first YN Singh Memorial Foundation Lecture Series on ‘National Security, Challenges and Strategy’ here last night.

Late YN Singh had served in co-operative department of Madhya Pradesh government. He was remembered for enhancing agriculture production through fertiliser distribution strategies.

On Pakistan raising the issue of Kashmir, Rajnath said, “During my meeting with the Pakistan Rangers and its delegation, I have cleared to them, Kashmir was, is and will remain India's integral part and if you wish to talk, then talk about Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) only.”

“I have also tried to convince the Pakistan Rangers why should they fire at the uniform (soldiers)… First you fire, then we retaliate.

Why shouldn’t both of us fire together at terrorism to end the menace," he said.

The Home Minister said it was a challenge to protect the country's over 23,000-km-long border, but assured it was well-protected. He also exuded confidence that India would become the world's largest economy in next 10-15 years. “The world over it was believed that down the line India will emerge as a major economy along with US and China. However, I am confident that because of India's core strength, it will become the world's largest economy in next 10-15 years. But, some anti-national forces don't want to see India in that position," he said.

Singh said India believes in co-existence and it is the only country in the world where Islam's all 72 'firke' (sects) exist. In no other country, even in Islamic nations, all these 72 firkes were found. The same thing also applies for Christianity and Buddhism, he said.

Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's diplomatic skills, Rajnath said it was because of his leadership quality that even a country like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had stood with India on the issue of fighting against terrorism. "It was unthinkable earlier," he said. On the steps taken by the government to enhance vigil on borders, he said in the last one year, the smuggling of cows to Bangladesh had come down to 2.5-3 lakh from the earlier figure of 22 lakh. "This figure is not just provided by the BSF but also by NGOs working on the issue," he said.

Referring to north-east region, he said 70 terrorist organisations were active there and dealing with them was a challenge, but added that change was visible there also while citing the recent agreement with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), to prove his point.

On the issue of Naxalism, he said 26 districts in the country were affected with the menace, and that the respective state governments were dealing with the problem in an effective manner with the active support from the Centre, both in terms of deploying central forces and required funds. Earlier, addressing the function, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh termed "Naxalism as a bigger threat than terrorism." “It (Naxalism) is persisting in the country because of an international conspiracy to destabilise India's economy,” he said.

The Chhattisgarh CM also highlighted various steps taken by his government, including setting of educational hubs in hardcore Naxal areas, to deal with the problem, which had helped in checking the menace to a great extent, especially in the state's Sarguja district.

Rajnath defers visit to border areas

Rajnath Singh, who was scheduled to visit forward areas along the borders with Pakistan and China, has postponed the tour citing a key BJP meeting on Bihar. Singh, who was planning to visit Samba along Indo-Pak border and Chumar in eastern Ladakh for three days beginning Tuesday, postponed the visit and may tour both the areas later this month.

Parrikar, Rajnath meet over Ladakh stand-off

Amidst the stand-off between Indian and Chinese forces in Ladakh, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday met Home Minister Rajnath Singh. During the meeting, Parrikar and Singh are believed to have discussed about the stand-off between Indian and Chinese forces in Ladakh, sources said.

Naxalism bigger threat than terrorism: Raman

Chhattisgarh CM Dr Raman Singh termed "Naxalism as a bigger threat than terrorism." “It (Naxalism) is persisting in the country because of an international conspiracy to destabilise India's economy,” he said. The CM highlighted various steps taken by his government to deal with the problem.

BSF man killed in Pak shelling along LoC

Jammu: Barely 24 hours after Pakistan agreed with India that there were will be no mortar shelling on each other, troops from the other side fired mortar bombs along the LoC in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir in a fresh ceasefire violation killing a BSF Assistant Sub Inspector.
BSF Officer Dies as Pakistan Violates Ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu:  Barely 24 hours after Pakistan agreed with India that there were will be no mortar shelling on each other, troops from the other side fired mortar bombs along the LoC in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir in a fresh ceasefire violation killing a BSF officer.

"There was ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops this evening by resorting to mortar shelling on forward posts along LoC in Manjakote sector of Rajouri district," a senior BSF officer said tonight, a day after the Border Security Force(BSF) and Pakistan Rangers agreed to uphold the sanctity of ceasefire during the DG-level talks in Delhi.

They fired two 82 mm mortar bombs, which exploded near a forward Indian Post in which one Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) of BSF got severe splinter injuries around 1820 hours, he said.

Later, the injured ASI died, he said, adding that the victim was identified as Sohan Lal, a resident of Sikar district of Rajasthan.

Troops guarding the border on this side also retaliated back.

Troops guarding Pakistani borders earlier in the day opened fire in Samba district along the International Border (IB).

"Pakistan rangers fired three rounds early today morning using small weapons. The fire was aimed at a forward Border out Post (BoP) in Samba," a BSF official said.

He, however, said that the BSF did not retaliate to the fire from across the border.

There have been 15th ceasefire violations in September this year.

Eleven people, including two jawans, were killed and over 30 injured in August in ceasefire violations by Pakistan.

There have been over 250 violations of the border ceasefire agreement by Pakistan in the year so far, of which 57 were in August.

As part of efforts to bring peace on the border, India and Pakistan yesterday decided to put a complete ban on firing of mortar shells along the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir which has claimed the lives of several civilians and damaged their houses.

The two sides also agreed to jointly resolve sensitive issues like ceasefire violations and cross-border infiltration through timely exchange of information, including via email and over telephone.

At the conclusion of the three-day DG-level talks, the two sides inked a 20-point joint record of discussion to follow in the future.

BSF Director General Devendra Kumar Pathak and Pak Rangers DG (Punjab) Major General Umar Farooq Burki signed the official record of talks at the headquarters of BSF after wrapping up their talks that took place almost after a break of two years as relations between the two countries came under strain due to a host of issues on the border.
"The two sides have decided that they will not resort to mortar fire along IB in times of peace. At the same time, it was agreed that the two forces will not use heavy weapons and these sort of weaponry and ammunition will only be used as a last resort," sources said.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also told the visiting Pakistani delegation on Friday that "Indian forces will not fire the first bullet along the international border".
Army goes aggressive; Defence, Home Ministries monitor situation
JAMMU, Sept 13: Displaying aggressiveness with the backing of the Defence Ministry and the Army Headquarters, the Indian Army has strengthened its positions with deployment of more troops and paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and seized cameras and other material used by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in construction of watch tower in Burtse area along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), about 500 meters inside the Indian territory in Ladakh sector.
Meanwhile, a Sector Commander level flag meeting between the Indian Army and PLA could take place tomorrow to resolve the standoff in Ladakh sector, which comes after more than a year as complete peace was prevailing between India and China and both the sides had only few days back opened a new Border Meeting Point (BMP) near Daulat Beig Oldie (DBO) sector and had frequent meetings and cultural exchange programmes on different occasions.
Official sources told the Excelsior that situation between India and China at Burtse, where Indian Army had dismantled a watch tower constructed by the PLA yesterday and seized the material including a camera, remained tense with both sides being in eyeball-to-eyeball position and strengthening their presence.
The Indian Army as well as PLA have called more troops and were maintaining their positions in the absence of flag meeting, which, sources said, could take place tomorrow if everything goes well.
“It could be Sector Commander level meeting and we hope the issue will be resolved as the Indian side was ready to return camera and other seized material of the PLA if the Chinese troops return to their original position,” sources said, adding that presently, about 90 PLA soldiers were camping nearly 500 meters inside the Indian territory
The Indian troops followed by the paramilitary ITBP have also equally strengthened their positions but, according to sources, the Indian authorities were hopeful that the situation will not aggravate further and the issues will be resolved in the Sector Commanders’ meeting, which could take place tomorrow.
Sources said the Defence Ministry and the Union Home Ministry were monitoring the situation very closely from New Delhi.  Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Home Minister Rajnath Singh were in regular touch with Army and ITBP officials respectively.
Northern Army Commander Lt Gen D S Hooda has briefed Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag about the situation after obtaining detailed reports from General Officer Commanding (GOC) Leh based 14 Corps Lt Gen SK Patyal. The ITBP Commanders have given detailed report on the situation to the Union Home Minister.
Sources said the Indian Army was ready to return the PLA camera and other infrastructure seized by them after demolition of the Chinese Army’s watch tower at Burtse but only after the PLA agreed to retreat from the Indian territory, where they had been camping since yesterday morning.
This is for the first time during incursions by the Chinese Army in Leh that the Indian troops went aggressive and dismantled the watch tower raised by the PLA about 500 meters inside the Indian territory.
Sources said the hut, constructed by the PLA with a solar panel on top, had a camera which recorded the movement of Indian troops. The camera would have given details of every movement of the Indian troops to China, they added.
The construction was done by the PLA to claim that the area belonged to them. This area is adjacent to Depsang plains where PLA had pitched camps in April, 2013 that had led to a three-week long stalemate.
China has been trying to make inroads in Burtse area as it will give access to the PLA to monitor the activities of Indian troops based in Old Patol base besides trying to deny an advantage to India to overlook the Karakoram highway linking the territory illegally occupied by China with Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir(PoK).
Besides, India has an Advanced Ground Landing (AGL) facility in Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) which was activated in August 2013 and the Indian Air Force (IAF) had managed to land a C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft at the air strip located at 16,614 feet above sea level.
The initial existence of a hut was seen first on a satellite imagery after which a joint patrol of ITBP and Army was sent to the area to have a report from ground zero. Later, it was decided to demolish the hut which prompted Chinese PLA to reach the area resulting in the face-off.
Indian troops displayed the banners in Chinese asking the PLA to return to their side, the sources said.
India and China share over 4,000 kms of LAC. China claims approximately 90,000 sq km of territory in Arunachal Pradesh besides 38,000 sq kms in Jammu and Kashmir sector.
Across the aisle: The OROP whodunit
Whatever it takes to implement OROP, the resources must be found. In 2010-11, the RBI transferred to Government a surplus of Rs 15,009 crore. Who thought RBI would transfer Rs 65,896 crore in 2015-16? If there is will, a way can be found
- See more at:
The other mystery story running on our screens is One Rank One Pension (OROP).

Actually, there is no mystery. All the facts are recorded and documented. However, in the race to claim credit (and disown criticism), the OROP issue is being presented as a big controversy shrouded in mystery.

Get facts right

Let’s get the facts right. The Indian Armed Forces are voluntary forces. There is no conscription. Men and women join the forces as jawans or officers for a variety of reasons and, among them, is the security of a job. While the job is reasonably secure, it is not a job for the entire working life. According to the report of the Koshiyari Committee, 85 per cent of the Armed Forces personnel retire by the age of 38 years and another 10 per cent retire by the age of 46 years. They have to work for a living for many more years, but there is no guarantee of a post-retirement job.
Retirement at an early age is good and necessary to keep the forces young and fighting fit. Hence the case for an honourable pension.
- See more at:
There is another reason to make pension an attractive term of service that has not been noticed adequately: it is to attract new volunteers. The attrition rates, and the vacancy levels, are alarmingly high and, if the Armed Forces have to remain voluntary forces, recruitment must remain robust. The promise of an honourable pension is an important factor in recruitment.

OROP is an honourable pension. The time to debate the merits and demerits of OROP is over. It was a decision taken by the UPA government and reiterated by the NDA government. Both may share credit.

Some more undisputed facts: While presenting the interim budget for 2014-15 on 17 February 2014, I had said: “During the tenure of the UPA Governments, changes in the pension rules applicable to the defence services were notified on three occasions in 2006, 2010 and 2013. As a result, the gap between pre-2006 retirees and post-2006 retirees has been closed in four ranks (subject to some anomalies that are being addressed): Havildar, Naib Subedar, Subedar and Subedar Major….. Government has therefore decided to walk the last mile and close the gap for all retirees in all ranks. I am happy to announce that Government has accepted the principle of One Rank One Pension for the defence forces.”

What is orop?

On 26 February 2014, the Ministry of Defence defined OROP and the following definition was communicated to the Chiefs of the three Services: “OROP implies that uniform pension be paid to the Armed Forces personnel retiring in the same  rank with the same length of service irrespective of their date of retirement and any future enhancement in the rates of pension to be automatically passed on to the past pensioners. This implies bridging the gap between the rate of pension of the current pensioners and the past pensioners, and also future enhancements in the rate of pension to be automatically passed on to the past pensioners.”

The letter was a 4-page, 12-paragraph letter that left no doubt on what was intended to be done. The conditions, modalities and the manner of implementation were spelt out in detail. On 22 April 2014 a Working Group was constituted with the Controller General of Defence Accounts as the chairperson with Terms of Reference that included “to work out the detailed financial implications.” It was specifically stated that “since substantial increase is anticipated in expenditure on OROP, FA (DS) would thereafter seek additional funds as per requirement.”

Much is made of the fact that the interim budget provided only Rs 500 crore. It was, as I had said, an estimate and the money was provided as “an earnest of the UPA Government’s commitment.”  Mr Arun Jaitley reaffirmed the commitment in his Budget Speech on 10 July 2014. And, pray, how much did he provide? He said, “we propose to set aside a further sum of Rs 1,000 crore to meet this year’s requirement”!
So, why is the Government adding ifs and buts? Why is the Government adding unacceptable riders or conditions that will dilute the “commitment” of two successive Governments?

Reject the objections

The sticking points are entirely due to bureaucratic back-pedalling and the inability of the Government to overrule the objections. The promise must prevail over the objections, even if some of them appear valid. The promise was to implement OROP from 1 April 2014, and not 1 July 2014. The promise was same pension to personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, and not grant of same pension by looking into the cause of retirement.

The promise was that future enhancements in the rate of pension will be automatically passed on to the past pensioners, and not that the adjustment will be made every five years.

OROP is indeed a defined benefit pension and different from the National Pension System (NPS) which is a contributory pension scheme. A person who has a short working life in the Armed Services cannot contribute enough during that period to earn an honourable pension. Hence OROP.

Whatever it takes to implement OROP, the resources must be found. In 2010-11, the RBI transferred to Government a surplus of Rs 15,009 crore. Who thought RBI would transfer Rs 65,896 crore in 2015-16? If there is will, a way can be found.

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